Recipe of the week
Saigon street food for your next grill night
If you’re a fan of Vietnamese food, “these really are a must-have at any barbecue,” says Jerry Mai in Street Food Vietnam (Smith Street Books). People in Vietnam love to grill meats and seafood, so in many cities you’ll find street vendors crouched near ceramic grills cooking bo la lot over glowing charcoal. Bo la lot are parcels of seasoned ground beef wrapped in betel leaves, which are available online or at Indian markets. Once the bo la lot are cooked, they’re eaten garnished with mint, wrapped in lettuce leaves, and dabbed in a dipping sauce.
Bo la lot (Grilled beef wrapped in betel leaf)
12 bamboo skewers
2¼ lb ground beef
¼ lb ground pork fat
Scant ½ cup oyster sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, minced
1 tsp dried chile flakes
2 tbsp superfine sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
48 betel leaves
1 iceberg lettuce, leaves separated
1 bunch Vietnamese mint
1 bunch mint
Nuoc mam dipping sauce (recipe below)
Soak skewers in cold water for 1 hour. Drain.
Combine beef and pork fat in a large bowl; mix well. Add remaining ingredients except betel leaves and form the mixture into a ball. Slap the ball against side of the bowl several times until the mixture no longer sticks to your fingers. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 to 60 minutes.
Prepare a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to high.
Place a betel leaf on a cutting board and roll a heaping tablespoon of the beef mixture in your hands. Place the mixture in the center of the leaf and roll into a sausage shape just smaller than the leaf’s width. Fold in the ends and roll into a tight log, then push a skewer through the center. Repeat with the remaining filling and betel leaves, pushing four bo la lot onto each skewer.
When the fire is ready (the embers should be glowing red), place the bo la lot on the grill and cook, turning from time to time, for about 8 minutes or until the rolls are firm when squeezed with tongs.
Place lettuce and herbs in center of table; divide the nuoc mam among dipping bowls. Invite guests to wrap the bo la lot and herbs in the lettuce leaves and dip them in the nuoc mam. Serves 4 to 6 as a main course.
Nuoc mam dipping sauce
(makes 2½ cups)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 bird’s eye chiles, finely chopped
½ cup plus 2 tbsp fish sauce
Scant ½ cup white vinegar
½ cup plus 2 tbsp superfine sugar
Combine ingredients and 1 scant cup water in a bowl and stir until sugar has dissolved. ■